Biblical Archaeology Review 39:5, September/October 2013

Strata: Exhibit Watch: Ancient Engraving at Its Finest

If Shalmaneser III of Assyria wanted to send a letter to his general fighting the army of Israel’s king Ahab at Karkar, he wouldn’t have signed his name in ink as we do today. Instead, he (along with countless rulers and officials in the ancient Near East) would have given his seal of approval—literally—by pressing an engraved seal onto the wet clay of a document. These small seals were made from semiprecious stones intricately carved with images and designs. Cylinder seals were engraved in the round so that when rolled across clay, a comprehensive, repeating scene emerged.

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